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I'm a long-time watcher and a short-time player of golf.

Whilst only a beginner, I am actually fairly good at getting out of greenside bunkers. I open the club face, I aim an inch behind the ball and follow right through.

However, I can't seem to get any distance out of fairway bunkers. Currently, I'm adopting the same approach as when I play the greenside bunkers but with a longer iron.

The problem is that I don't get any distance. I either "top" it and I come out hard and low or I get under it but all the power is lost.

What should I be doing out of the sand here?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

However, I can't seem to get any distance out of fairway bunkers. Currently, I'm adopting the same approach as when I play the greenside bunkers but with a longer iron.

Oh no.....I'm cringing ;) You open your stance, the clubface of your long iron, and strike the sand an inch behind the ball to get out of fairway bunkers? The reason this is done in greenside bunkers is to get the ball out of the bunker while landing it softly enough to hold the green, let alone stopping the ball as close as you can to the hole (and if you can spin the ball, that's a huge plus!).

The problem is that I don't get any distance.

Playing a shot from a greenside bunker is not a distance shot.

How to play a shot out of a fairway bunker:

  • Take one or two extra clubs.
  • Place the ball a little farther back in stance than normal.
  • Dig in a little (sand is slippery if you don't get to the bottom of it!)
  • Swing while keeping your lower body as still as possible.

Above is a list I got from the following article. Throughout my normal swing, my left leg flexes. During my bunker shot, my left leg is (athletically - slightly bent) stiff until I make contact. I will admit, it takes an enormous amout of leg strength to keep your lower body as still as possible.

Also, another thing that isn't listed above is to strike the ball first. Keep in mind how high the lip is before you choose your club. If the lip is high, I would take a higher club to move the ball forward and out of the bunker. Aside: Striking the ball first is also crucial for shots off pine straw.

EDIT: (based on KeithS's comment) If the ball is buried, just get the ball out of the bunker and give yourself a better look for your next shot. It is not practical to strike the ball first in a buried lie or fried egg. If more than the bottom quarter of the equator of the ball is buried, I would just pitch out.

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+1 a fairway bunker is not the same as a green one.. –  gbianchi Jun 21 '12 at 17:14
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Thanks. Sorry for making you cringe! I've only played 4 rounds so I'm very much a newbie! ;o) –  Ste Jun 22 '12 at 8:03
    
@Ste Been there, done that! It takes time....lots of it! :D –  edmastermind29 Jun 22 '12 at 14:36
    
One thing; it is not always practicable to strike the ball first. If your ball has buried itself in the bunker, abandon all hope of distance and play a normal, square, full-swing sand wedge shot with the aim of just getting out of the bunker. –  KeithS Jun 22 '12 at 15:30
    
@KeithS Another good point. I would hope common sense tells me to get out and give myself a shot ;) –  edmastermind29 Jun 22 '12 at 15:32

One more thing I might add to edmastermind29's great answer is choke up on your club slightly to account for when you dig into the sand (the ball will be higher in relation to your feet). This will help to prevent you from catching too much sand and either leaving it in the bunker, or ending up short of where you're trying to hit it.

Also note it's one of the harder shots in golf so don't feel obligated to go for the green (edmastermind29 alluded to this already). Course management, knowing when to take risks and when to play it safe, can save you a ton of strokes.

Good luck!

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+1 @eeyyo made a great point, choking down on the grip promotes control. Unless we're Dustin Johnson, who can blast a 230-yard bunker shot, the main thing we're going for is to get it out of the bunker, even if it is a 50-100 yard pitch out. Another honorable mention for course management. –  edmastermind29 Jun 22 '12 at 2:27

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